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When two people bond (a couple) with each other, they learn to communicate about their needs, desires and dreams. Some people are comfortable discussing everything and others are very private.

Nobody goes into a relationship or a marriage thinking they need to better their skills or find ways of communicating as people take with them what they have learned while growing up. In marital and other relationships the work intimacy if often misunderstood. Most of us think intimacy is sex. Intimacy is more that that – it is a person’s ability to talk about what he or she really is, and to say what he or she wants with a partner who listens and cares. You can talk about your pain, rage and failures, to discuss personal, social and sexual needs and being explicit about them rather than inarticulate.

Many couples attend counselling because of communication problems. Couples need to listen without interrupting, although this can be hard if anger comes into play and communication is therefore done on an emotional level not a rational one. When communicating purely by emotion, things are said that you wish you could take back, and someone tends to get very hurt. You then go around in circles and solutions are not found and you find your initial problem is forgotten about and new issues arise. By listening to your partner, you can delve deeper and you find out what the problem really is. It could be something very minor – he doesn’t pick up his clothes – to something very major – we can not fall pregnant. Once real fears are exposed the therapeutic process will change for the better.

People always blame others and generally it is something they don’t like about themselves. The word couple means two and it takes two to make a relationship work. Even though most people think it is their partners’ fault, issues need to be addressed that they could be contributing to the problem. The truth hurts and once this is addressed and acknowledged, real work can be done to improve the relationship.

We all have choices and the number one fear in most relationships is rejection therefore you end up fighting with your partner. This arguing is out of fear or wishing to have the power in the relationship. There is a difference between confidence and power. With power you are whingeing to get what you want. With confidence you portray an aura of knowledge. People listen to confidence but block out whingeing and not hear you. You need to stop complaining and specifically ask for what you want in the here and now. It is no point waiting a few days then bringing up whatever you have been holding inside. The time has passed and it is just bringing up old hurts.

If the issue is brought up in the here and now, you have a better chance of solving it rationally than days later which you will have more emotion involved and less chance of solving the issue. Empathy goes along way in any relationship. You need to think of others and how they are feeling. If you continually raise your voice when talking with your partner, how do you think they feel? It will get to a point where your partner has had enough and either more arguments will occur and your relationship will be not a happy, loving and secure one.

One thing you must always keep in mind is never fight in front of your children. They will always think it is their fault and you are changing the child forever, as they experience the yelling but will never forget it. There is nothing to justify it. You need to discuss your issues in a calm manner and wait until your children have gone to bed or are out of the house. It is not fair to your children as it is not their issue it is yours.

Communication is imperative for a relationship to work. You see on the news regularly interviews with couples who have been married 50 years or more. The one question they always get asked is “What is it that keeps your marriage going?” The answer is generally compromise. Sometimes we do not feel happy with the decision that our partner has made. Once it is thought over rationally the decision can be compromised on, so both are happy.

As the old saying goes “You were given two ears and one mouth”. Therefore listening is more important than talking. This old saying is a tool you can use to achieve your goal of communicating effectively. By communicating effectively you can problem solve and build and maintain a loving productive relationship. Before anything else happens, you have to approach this with a really good open attitude and get your mind right otherwise you will be wasting your time.

To communicate effectively you need to aport a genuinely open attitude and treat your partners’ talking as legitimate. Give your partner your undivided and unhurried attention when they reach out. This can be hard if you are in the middle of something, although if you mention you would like to finish what you are doing you will listen. Truly listen to what they are saying so that when you reply your responses are relevant.

By using effective communication you are showing that you understand and appreciate your partners’ feeling and that you have empathy. Empathy is a trait that shows maturity, caring and unselfishness but does not mean you always agree with your partners’ point of view. It is taking the time to really understand how the other person is feeling by putting yourself in their shoes. Empathy is not about fixing the problem if one exists it is about truly making the effort to understand and going to the trouble of showing that you understand.

Consider the following which demonstrate how empathy and reflection of feeling, or the absence works.
I am sorry I yelled at you before dinner. I had a bad day at work, the kids were fighting and I am tired. I am confused and you hurt my feelings when you told me to “get over it”.

Husband’s non-empathetic response:
Yeh whatever. Imagine how I feel every time I come home from work you are grumpy. I sometimes can not even be bothered talking……?
Husband’s empathetic response:
You must be feeling mad at me for not listening to you (hugs her). If I have to put up with what you do after work each day I would be feeling tired and confused. Is that the way you feel? What could I do to help you? I understand you were emotional, although don’t you agree that you could have done something that might have been more constructive.”
If you can show your partner that you “get it” they are more likely to open up and be more accepting of any help you may offer.

Effective communication is not a “no holes barred” argument where you disrespect one another. If your words, tone or attitude become less than respectful you will find your partner will turn off and you will be wasting your time. You will not always get the response you want while trying to communicate. You need to focus on the point at hand and avoid personal attacks because once emotion comes in your communication line is broken. Try and also stay in the here and now. By bringing up old circumstances is non-productive and will cause your partner to feel disrespected. We all have a past and by bringing up old hurts you can contaminate your relationship.

A relationship is mutually defined; you contribute to or contaminate a relationship. No-one wants to keep bringing up past history, so by working in the here and now you will be contributing to a relationship that will have mutual respect. If you need to bring up issues with your partner, keep them private. Never bring up issues in front of relatives, friend or children unless they are directly involved in the situation. By doing this will cause humiliation, embarrassment and resentment even though you may feel that is not what you are doing. It will be seen very differently from your partners’ point of view so keep it private.

If some of these traits above are playing out in your relationship then it might pay to make a booking with our Professional Counsellor Lyn McDonald, just visit our site www.positivelifecounselling.com.au we offer marriage and relationship counselling on the Gold Coast.

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